My Far-flung Readers

Just the other day the second greatest number of readers I had were from Guam. It was only 8, compared with 17 from the US, but Guam only has 165,000 people.

I had posted 2 posts that day, neither about travel or Asia or anything particularly interesting  to Guamanians. I am puzzled by this, and I would like to ask; Who of you is from Guam? What’s it like? What did I write that interests you?

A rather thrilling aspect of blogging is looking at the stats and seeing where the people reading your blog are from.
Here are my readers from September:
  • “United States”,186
    “Bangladesh”,28
    “Guam”,18
    “Canada”,15
    “South Korea”,13
    “United Arab Emirates”,13
    “United Kingdom”,13
    “India”,13
    “Australia”,7
    “Germany”,6
    “Netherlands”,6
    “New Zealand”,6
    “Italy”,5
    “Japan”,4
    “France”,4
    “Philippines”,3
    “Russia”,3
    “Finland”,3
    “Singapore”,2
    “Tunisia”,2
    “Lebanon”,1
    “Mexico”,1
    “Bahrain”,1
    “Ireland”,1
    “Qatar”,1
    “Turkey”,1
    “Saudi Arabia”,1
Who is reading from UAE? At least I’ve been there, but neither of my friends who lives that is reading my blog (well, maybe one, I’m not sure).  Russia? Italy?
How about you 2 Tunisians? I want to hear from you! Your country is on my list of places I want to visit.
Bangladesh I understand. I lived there for 2 years. I’m happy to see I have some readers there. I suspect they are my lovely students.
For me, that is the most intriguing part of the stats. Sometimes I have a reader from Holland. Other countries show up. I would love to know who all of you are, so if you ever reply, please tell me. I would love to learn more about you and your country.
Write a reply, so I can start following you. Or maybe I am following you, but I don’t know to where.

Creative Blogger Award

Creative-Blogger-300x300The RULES are:

  1. Nominate a few bloggers and contact them with the amazing news.
  2. Link back to the person who nominated you.
  3. Post five (5) facts about yourself.

Yesterday was a bit rough, and today was promising to be more-so, but then Sandy Hogan, over at  Scribbles & Musings Of an introvert wrote to say she was nominating me for  The Creative Blogger Award. Now that was something. I went to the page she linked and now I need to follow the directions. Hmmm, I didn’t know this was a challenge award! Now I have to figure out how to fulfill the tasks. One is easy- nominate some other people for the award.

Good! Now I have been so kindly recognized by Sandy, and I have a task to fill my attention for a while. It is a better morning already.

My nominees:

jacquelineobyikocha For amazing stories and a blog I return to often!

In I think I became a bit Korean in my years there, and she keeps me in touch with my K side

Vibrant Creative Inspiration

Marquessa Mathews Excellent point of view

moviejoltz 365 movie reviews! Done extraordinarily well!

Five things about me:

  1. My most important guiding belief is in the equality of humankind. I cannot imagine anything other. Now I am working on incorporating the non-human end of things.
  2. I am quintessentially rootless. I was born that way.
  3. My best quality is that I am a superb teacher, my worst is my impatience. Thankfully the impatience is reserved for people other than my students. So maybe I use up my patience on my students? That is simply intelligent prioritizing.
  4. I swim. Yeah, lots of people do. But I am more alive and graceful in the water than on land. For me, the film Waterworld was aspirational.
  5. I’ve lived and taught in many parts of the world, but I have command of 1 (English) and a fraction (Spanish) languages, with a smattering of expressions from some others thrown in for good effect. Of this I hang my head in shame. But I am studying the Spanish!

Now, I know nothing of this award. Maybe it is just a way of passing on some good chi, or Ju Ju. That is enough to be worthwhile. But if anyone knows how to pass these nominees on to the source of the prize, please let me know!

Vignette

Old vine zinfandel. More of a vin than a vignette, but it’s a start. A day of starts and stops. Up too early. Bad dreams. Sister still moaning in pain after yesterday’s huge oral surgery. Air bed’s deflated. Inflate, try to nap. Package two day’s late to be delivered, and since cancelled, arrives. Try to nap again. Doesn’t take. Dog barks, sister moans, brother in law returns from work. Start again. Refill the the leaky air mattress. Walk to the store in the blazing heat. Leftovers and old vine zinfandel. There are some days like these. But there is always some vin, and there is always

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tomorrow.

Imposter Syndrome

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My formal education ended with my doctoral candidacy. There were many reasons for my not completing my dissertation, but the only surprise, in my own mind, is that I made it that far in graduate school.

My family was poor, working class and rather itinerant. I went to several elementary schools, and a few high schools. I lived in 9 or 10 houses before I graduated from high school.

By the time I found my way to college, I had lived in more houses than I had years, and had a 6 year old child (who had lived in more homes than she had years). But I had found a good income during the 70’s and was able to afford to go to school, so long as I worked part-time and summers.

I took a standardized entrance exam for university and didn’t know how to read it. I thought the numbers confirmed my suspicions that I was an idiot, but I read them wrong and actually had advanced placement for some subjects. But there I was, 30, just a hairsbreadth shy of being a high school failure (my GPA was barely adequate to graduate, maybe because I was holding two jobs?) in with young and seemingly confident undergrads. I not only didn’t know how to read entrance exam results, but I had no idea about things like “majors” and “minors” and requirements. As far as my knowledge of university was concerned, I was functionally illiterate.

I spent those years always convinced that the last A grade was a mistake. I had fooled someone into it. I drove myself to get the best marks for everything, and never trusted that I earned them. I never thought I could get from the University of Alaska into a “real” university like the University of Washington. Then one of my professors suggested graduate school. I was accepted and given full support (with teaching duties). Another mistake, I thought, how easy it is to pull something on UW.

There were few working class graduate students, and I gravitated to them. I never felt very comfortable with the majority of students, and less so with faculty. They spoke a secret language learned from intimate familiarity with the Classics, with math and philosophy, with college intramural sports, and with Greek life. They went home to scholarly lives, and I went home to teenage children and domestic responsibilities. We were of different worlds — the world of the campus was theirs, and I was an interloper.

Today some universities and graduate programs are recognizing that working class and poor students have problems that cause them to drop out and not reach their potential. In countries where everyone is expected to go to university, and university is paid for by the government instead of with student loans and part-time jobs, I suspect the culture of education is much more inclusive. Outreach to students who have somehow arrived ill-prepared for university is something, but it is too little too late. The culture of education has to begin at the beginning.

Education shouldn’t feel like it belongs to another class or group of people. Today, at least in the US, this is more of a problem than ever. Some poor children grow up in families rich in the respect for and expectation of learning. Some of us come from families where education is what keeps you busy and out of trouble till you can get a job. Few of us have a sense of entitlement and expectation. And when we actually get towards the top, we can feel like imposters.

“Travel Trinket and Memories Challenge”

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Oh baby! My favorite and oldest suitcase is by far my favorite travel trinket, and repository for so many memories. This is the key piece of luggage. I have the usual assortment of big boxy suitcases, my latest being ugly purple and pink, to be obvious on the belt. They can hold up to 50 lbs each, and can take a lot of abuse, till they fall apart and need to be replaced. They are generic and utilitarian.

But this old, black carry-on? It carries the essentials I don’t trust to the TSA (yes, as many others, I have been robbed by these staunch protectors of my safety), and I don’t want slung around by handlers furious about their pay and their lack of passports. It holds whatever precious items I don’t want to risk, whether my one of a kind silver collectables or irreplaceable family photos.

One time it was full of 3 computers and as many external hard-drives (another story) and caught the attention of security at airports in Seoul, Narita and Denver. Well, Denver was more interested in seizing my stick deodorant than checking out all of the electronic hardware. But everything got where it meant to go.

Another time I had my computers and cameras in it, and it was unexpectedly checked at Chicago. I grabbed my computers and one of the cameras, but missed the one at the bottom. Unfortunately the TSA inspector didn’t miss it, and (s)he got the camera and I got one of their form thank you notes for “letting them” inspect my bag.

It often gets a close inside inspection when I am traveling with my trinkets from the Middle East, or forget that peanut butter is austensibly “liquid”.

But it gets there with me and holds my essentials. Now it is showing signs of age. it arrived from Seattle this time (again I had to check it) with a glitch in the zipper that took me a while to sort. I’m fairly sure that a curious TSA agent failed to find what (s)he wanted, but the bunged zipper tells me that it is time to consider a replacement.

I have bought a new one of the same brand, but it doesn’t seem as roomy, or as well designed. But I am probably just too attached to the old one. Maybe a few more trips. Which of us will age out first?

https://nihongojapango.wordpress.com/please-join-my-challenge/

Others’ Footsteps

I have the conceit that my writing, and photographs, will be motivation for people leaning in the direction of travel. I’ve recently returned to Seattle after 20 years, to find that my friends here actually think I’ve Done Something With Myself. I feel like  mine has been a life of stumbles and starts, where they get a refined and edited picture of a purposeful whole. But I have consistently recovered from stutters and falls to go on the the next great thing, so I guess that is something and there is a pattern.

Nena kindly responded to my about page that she would love to follow my adventures. I responded that we all make our own adventures. But the truth is that I was following others’ adventures, too. Today there are few firsts. We follow in well trod foot steps. Living in Saudi Arabia may have seemed an extraordinarily brave thing to some people, but I wouldn’t have gone if I hadn’t thought, “well, many people have done this, so it must be okay”. I traveled abroad to teach because it was being written about a lot and that inspired me.

Why not go teach in Bangladesh? There is already an American-style university there with some American and European faculty. It is quite doable. And it was. Not that it didn’t take adjustment and resilience, but it didn’t take Neil Armstrong courage.

So, maybe the fact that this 67 year old grandmother will go to Cambodia or Ecuador, or wherever I choose, with little money and less local vocabulary, maybe that will be inspirational. Or at least evidence that is quite doable.DSC00286

Writing

Wherever one goes these days, it is hard to avoid “writers”. Cafes and park benches bristle with the invisible output of flying fingers, or thumbs, as people bang away on their devices. So much writing going on! We will exhaust the world of words. Where do all of those words go? People everywhere are producing “content”. But we don’t go around calling ourselves “content providers” — we are writers! But we are writers in the same way that a person with even the cheapest flip phone is a “photographer”. Yes, for the most part, we are content providers.

But, some of us aspire to be writers. We take courses, like this one on WordPress, and practice our nascent craft. What does it really take to be a writer?

One thing sure seems to be discipline. This course and others force us to write when we aren’t in the mood, when our ears are ringing (like now), when we would rather eat/sleep/have sex/do nothing. Perhaps writing is one of those things that are 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. So, to be a writer you must write. Some need to set aside a certain time of day, and some can just be disciplined enough to squeeze writing in when possible.

To write regularly a good place helps. But for travel writers, and writers who have to work to feed themselves, such a place, a singular place, is a luxury. Laptops and pads help, as does having the means to take notes at hand. We, almost all of us anyway, have some sort of electronic device we can write on any time or most any place. Problem, sort of, solved. Hence the writers in coffee shops and on park benches, or at a kitchen counter in a cheap airbnb.

Time, tools and place. These seem to be the necessary elements, but the most important thing is ideas. Inspiration can come to us any time or any place. Being a writer requires being an observer and listener. People have written important books from jail, and from seldom-left lofts. A cell and a good imagination can provide grist for a book. Traveling the world leaves some bereft of any thing to say.

So, what do you think is most important for being a writer?

Nostalgia

A little over 20 years ago I left Seattle behind. I had lived there for 15 years between the late 70’s and early 90’s, and had returned for the birth of my first grandson. Not knowing that it would be 2 decades till I returned. My daughter and her little family moved away to the midwest, and I visited them there. I still had friends and connections in Seattle, but visiting her was a greater priority. Somewhere in a storage unit are hard copy photos of my years in the Northwest, but I have none to share here.

Now the daughter is back in Seattle, hence, so am I. On this cool drizzly grey September Sunday morning, I am sitting on a deck with my coffee reflecting on nostalgia.

The maple leaves still cling half-heartedly to their stems, and party lights on the neighbor’s deck hang heavy with the rain. A lawnmower sits out from the last pass at the grass, and a pricey bbq grill sits uncovered against the climate. Yesterday it was 80+ and sunny. It seems I am here for the first day of fall.

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On my first day here I bussed over the the university where I spent a good 10 plus years. I sort of dreaded doing that, as I was afraid of nostalgia. But the bus was shiny and new, and the route took me past spots that were only familiar for their place names. As with most college districts, The U district seemed remarkably seedy for this new Seattle. The same sandwich places and coffee hangouts were a bit more squeezed between newer buildings, but not changed much.

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I tempted my inner longing by wandering up on campus and instinctively towards the building where I spent the years of my education. Little here had changed, either. But the few changes there were made it someone else’s place. I had no feel for it. No ghosts of the past greeted me as I peeked in my old TA office. The names on most of the doors had changed, but other than that, it was Gowen Hall on the Quad across from the library. Nothing. Time has erased the traces of my attachment.

I occasionally dream of my days here. I think most often the dream is of missing a class, for the whole semester. Oh not teaching my section, again, for the whole semester. There are other dreams, sleeping and wakeful. I wonder now if I have exorcised the ghosts and demons of that past. And if I have, by visiting here and making it another place, is that a loss? Is nostalgia a bad thing? Or is the lack of it a sign that I am finally at home in my present life?